What is Influencer Marketing?

The Scene

There are many elements to consider for a successful digital marketing campaign; from your website to your SEO, your content plan to your email marketing. However, in recent years there is a new kid on the block who has been right under your nose as you’re scrolling through social media.

What is Influencer Marketing?
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What is Influencer Marketing?

They’re cool, probably attractive, popular, entertaining and have a quite a lot of followers on Instagram. Welcome to the world of influencer marketing. But, what is influencer marketing?

In simple terms, influencer marketing works by a business paying a widely-followed person to use their products in return for a positive post about it on their social media profile. Users then see the person they follow using the product working effectively and want in on the action, thus influenced to buy the product and achieve what they hope to be similar results. This process allows businesses to expand their reach, tapping into the trust and admiration people have for those they follow. Unlike buying an ad on a social platform, influencer marketing infuses brands in a much more natural way.

Influencers play an integral role for both consumers and businesses as they continue to grow into the powerful transitional bridge between marketers, brands and culture. Influencer marketing is disrupting the traditional marketing model by side-stepping dated methods and reaching audiences through the platforms themselves.

Who is Operating Influencer Marketing Effectively?

Savvy brands have optimised the art of influencer marketing and seen some tremendous growth in their business and no brand has taken advantage of influencer marketing as much as Gymshark – the UK’s fastest growing company.

Between studying at university and being a pizza delivery boy, teenager Ben Francis started his fitness wear business from his bedroom.  After recognising that young people are willing to invest in quality fitness clothing, he saw a gap in the market for functional, yet stylish, gym clothes and began creating his products by hand under the name Gymshark. Early in the company’s life, Ben realised the pivotal role social media can play in marketing to millennials.

Instead of conventional routes, such as email campaigns and promotions, Gymshark sent freebies to iconic bodybuilders, PTs and yogis with large followings with the aim of them becoming ambassadors for the brand. By sending free stuff to ambassadors, Gymshark got its products advertised to thousands (or even millions) of loyal followers who want to emulate the look of their favourite Instagram users for themselves.

After first utilising influencer marketing back in 2012, Gymshark has amassed a huge online community and regularly invite fitness influencers to become their ambassadors known as Gymshark Athletes to expand the brand. The perks of being a Gymshark Athlete include access to free products, a commission fee tracked via a unique referral link by promoting the brand on social media, and not forgetting plenty of cool points for being associated with the trendiest fitness brand in the world.

Will the consumer who’s just bought Gymshark via influencer marketing be able to lift weights as heavy as the bodybuilder influencer or be as flexible as the yogi on Insta with 150k followers? Nope. But will they look cool trying? Hell yes.

Even though Gymshark are sending free products out regularly it is not harming their earnings as they’re now worth over £100m and it’s all down to influencer marketing.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Influencer Marketing?

Plenty of businesses use influencer marketing but not all achieve the same results as Gymshark. Companies like Boombod and Flat Tummy Co. use some of the world’s biggest female names (Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner and Cardi B to name a few) to sell their ‘diet’ products. Their online reach is undeniable but for every user wishing to make an enquiry, there are hundreds of others in the comments calling for such products to be banned. Posts featuring paid products in that market often see comment sections turned off, heavily regulated engagement or the post deleted completely following backlash.

Once the post has been made featuring the product and the influencer has received their payment, they mostly don’t care about how your brand is received as their job is done. By working collaboratively with an influencer, you can control what they post in regard to your paid campaign, but you have no control over what they post around that content.

You’re essentially putting your product in someone else’s hands and it is highly likely that they won’t feel the same way about your product as you do. Working with influencers that have no interest in your brand can create content that lacks authenticity and is off-putting to an audience.

The influencer has done their part and been paid for the privilege so be sure that the influencers with whom you align your brand are as insulated from volatility as possible. By teaming up with influencers that have shown they align with brand already or share a key passion point, you’ll find the content is far more honest.

How Bad Can It Be?

Speaking of volatility surrounding influencer marketing, this segues perfectly into the mess we all know as Fyre Festival.

Huge sums of money were spent for influencers with millions of followers to post about this exciting upcoming festival happening the following summer on an exclusive island in the Bahamas. There was only one problem – the festival didn’t exist.

Fyre Festival’s use of high-profile influencers came under fire and with it created a huge debate around the ethics behind influencer marketing. How can people be paid to promote a brand, service or product without fully knowing what it is?

If you’ve seen the excellent documentary on Netflix by now, you’ll know that Fyre Festival was less the luxury cabanas, yacht parties with supermodels and five-star catering as promised but more shark infested waters, flooded medic relief tents and err… cheese sandwiches.

Mentioned in the documentary was the $250k fee for Kendall Jenner’s single Instagram post about Fyre. I paused my TV and gawked at the fact somebody was being paid a quarter of a million dollars for an Instagram upload. It was only afterwards that I considered that the reach her post achieved against a highly captive audience, this fee is but small potatoes. Or cheese sandwiches.

Her post was liked over 7 million times and over 30,000 people commented, with most of those comments being users tagging their friends. Would TV and other traditional media methods with a similar marketing budget achieve half the meaningful engagement of that single post? Doubtful.

Tickets for the fateful event sold out in days, the press’ interest in this exciting new venture was enormous and the buzz surrounding it was immense – how many first-time festivals can say that? Even though the festival was more like The Purge film series, the team behind it recognised the force influencer marketing can have.

Despite the wildly negative attention the Fyre Festival catastrophe has received, don’t think influencers are going away any time soon. Regulations have been put in place to allow better transparency between influencers and users, and when utilised in an authentic, appropriate manner it can be an important asset to any online digital marketing campaign.

Influencer marketing can be an extremely powerful tool for building your brand, but it is important to remember that its success will require an existing strong online digital strategy. Want to know more about developing your social media to maximise your online potential? Speak to us, we can help you with a manageable and profitable social media strategy across all platforms.

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